I realize I’ve been blessed in my 30+ years in the professional work force to have really, really great “bosses” who were exceptional leaders and mentors. In fact, aside from some jobs I had in high school I can honestly say that I’ve never had to work very long for a “bad boss” (aka poor leader).
Unfortunately, many of my friends, colleagues and those I’ve led have had to endure at least one of these poor leaders and sometimes several. Having had a “bad boss” appears to be the status quo experience for most people. That’s flat-out wrong and a real loss for both the leader and their followers. That’s why when I see the loss and sometimes carnage these negative leaders leave in their wake, I’m extremely grateful I haven’t had to experience much of it personally. It’s also one reason I’m motivated to do something about it.
Just how bad an experience one can have when working with poor leader can vary and ranges from comical to horrid. Using a judgmental term like “bad” leader may describe how we experience these leaders, but it doesn’t help us understand that person, their toxic behaviors and how to empower positive change. Using a 4-letter word doesn’t help either. The term dissonant leader, on the other hand, does.
What’s a dissonant leader? A dissonant leader is primarily someone who’s out of touch with their own emotional state as well the emotional state of the people and groups they lead. In other words, even though they may be intellectually brilliant and skillful, they flunk the fundamental task of leadership: to prime and sustain the emotions of those they lead.
What’s the effect and cost of dissonant leadership? Here are a few that take place on a personal level for their followers:
- Sucks their life out
- Burns them out
- Builds physiologic and psychologic distress
- Causes them to leave
The other disheartening reality is that these effects don’t stay at the office or on the field; they overflow to home-life and outside work relationships as well.
Are specific faces and names coming to mind for you yet? If not, take a minute to think of a poor leader in your past…specific face and name….that you worked for (or are working for) and under whose leadership you regularly experienced these effects. What emotions did thinking about them generate in you? What emotions do you still experience and carry with you? The effects of dissonant leadership don’t just stay at the office, do they?
I don’t want you to leave this post in a negative state after reading it, so if you actually took action on what I asked above, do this: take a minute and think of a great leader in your past…specific face and name….that you worked for (or are working for). What kind of emotions did you experience when serving under their leadership? How did they make you feel and what did they inspire in you?
The contrast in emotions elicited by dissonant and resonant leaders in their followers is a defining and practical one. The rest flows from there.
Next post we’ll look at different types of dissonant leaders and how to recognize them so you can do something about it.
Until next time.